Former Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has highlighed the “common ground” between the Left and Christianity after a meeting with Pope Francis in the Vatican.

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Former PM and now Syriza Opposition Leader Tsipras had an hour-long meeting Saturday with Francis in Rome, his fourth in five years.

According to Syriza sources, in those talks Tsipras thanked the Pope for his leadership on the refugee crisis, for his 2016 visit to the migrant hotspot of Lesbos, and for his unflagging support for Greece.

The Pope told Tsipras that what he saw in Lesbos was “deeply engraved in his memory and soul”.

Francis also thanked the former PM for his phrase, which the Pope said he often repeats: “Human rights are more important than any agreements”.

Words the Pope said in April are worthy “of the Nobel Prize”.

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Also in the discussions between Tsipras and Francis were regional conflicts, global inequalities, poverty and climate change.

The Pope congratulated Tsipras on his economic and social efforts during his 2015-2019 term.

Francis singled out for special praise the 2018 Prespes Agreement Tsipras reached with North Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev.

That Agreement put an end to long-standing tensions between Greece and Macedonia over the latter country’s name.

Calling the Agreement “brave”, Francis said it had improved peace and stability in the region, and for that reason had been worth the political cost.

Why it matters

For his part, Tsipras highlighted the “common ground” of the Left and Christianity on fundamental social values, and thanked Francis for the social justice message of his encyclicals and other writings.

In a message posted after the meet on Twitter, Tsipras thanked the Pope “wholeheartedly for his support of Greece in his effort to address the refugee crisis with humanity”.

The Syriza leader praised Francis for his “message on social justice and the protection of the most vulnerable from austerity policies”.

Tsipras also lauded the Pope for his stance “for peace and cooperation in the Balkans”.

The politician thanked Francis for his words on a May visit to Skopje, where the Pope praised North Macedonia as a “crucible of cultures and ethnic and religious identities” and backed its “increased integration with the nations of Europe”.

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